Two Democrats Join GOP Call for Countrywide Probe
Two Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are joining with panel Republicans in formally calling for Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) to launch an investigation of the Countrywide VIP loan scandal. “The American people deserve to the know the truth about these lending practices, and if they had undue influence on federal housing or financial policy based on awarding VIP’ loans to federal officials,— Reps. Paul Hodes (N.H.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.) wrote in a letter Thursday to Towns and ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Towns and Issa have been feuding for weeks over the California Republican’s demand that the panel pursue a probe of the Countrywide matter. The letter from the two junior Democrats on the panel is the latest evidence that Towns faces growing pressure on his own side of the dais to move ahead with one. While Quigley was already on record supporting the investigation, Hodes, who is running for Senate, was not. A Towns spokesman said the chairman “appreciates their input and is taking their letter into consideration.—The spat between Towns and Issa escalated this week, when Towns’ staff changed the locks on the door Republicans use to access the committee room. They confirmed the move was retribution for Republicans shooting video of Democratic members exiting the room in what the minority charged was an attempt to avoid a vote on issuing Countrywide subpoenas.Towns and Issa huddled Wednesday to try to resolve the dispute, and while both sides reported progress, they broke without a deal. They were set to meet again Thursday but postponed that session until Friday, Issa said.Hodes’ declaration potentially changes the calculus of those talks. Both he and Quigley serve on the panel’s Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, meaning there is now majority support on the subcommittee to issue the subpoenas. An Oversight aide noted that would obviate the need for action by the full committee. But it is not clear when the subcommittee is next scheduled to meet. Another committee source disputed that the subcommittee could issue the subpoenas, arguing it lacks jurisdiction. In their missive, the lawmakers said the panel should seek all documents relating to federal officials’ participation in the “Friends of Angelo— program, designed by Countrywide chief executive Angelo Mozilo to curry favor with key decision-makers. They also called for recovering correspondence with federal officials in the program informing them of their membership or explaining its benefits and any internal Countrywide correspondence indicating who should be included in it. Hodes and Quigley wrote that any information relating to Members of Congress should be “referred to the appropriate investigative bodies.— Two Senators who received loans through the program — Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) — were investigated and cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee earlier this year. An Issa spokesman said the lawmaker “fully supports— the approach laid out in the letter. “He believes it is a blueprint for a fair and comprehensive investigation that will uncover the full scope of Countrywide’s efforts to buy influence,— Kurt Bardella said.